The Archies Movie Review: Zoya Akhtar present a modern and meaningful Christmas filmThu 07 Dec 2023
Like the seven colours of the rainbow, the sensational seven stars in the new Netflix film, Archies takes you on a ride back in time
Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Agastya Nanda, Aditi Saigal aka Dot. Khushi Kapoor, Mihir Ahuja, Suhana Khan, Vedang Raina, Yuvraj Menda, Santana Roach, Rudra Mahuvarkar, Alyy Khan, Luke Kenny, Vinay Pathak, Koel Purie, Tara Sharma Saluja, Sheena Khalid, Delnaz Irani
Experiencing Zoya Akhtar’s sincere tribute to our cherished childhood comic feels deeply personal and, to some extent, cathartic. Having attended an Anglo-Indian institution and with my closest friends hailing from the community, Akhtar’s cultural portrayal resonates with remarkable accuracy.
In the initial stages of the film, a significant character recites a quote from William Faulkner: “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Throughout Akhtar’s promotional campaign, she was often presented with a question that implied she had the freedom to create any film with desired actors and technicians, since she is well-positioned at the top of everyone’s wishlist. However, the filmmaker certainly understands how to enjoy the process and at times, prioritize art for its inherent purpose rather than solely for profit—an ethos that radiates throughout The Archies. As another character aptly notes, “to make art, you must go in, not out.” This clarifies her intention to establish a captivating world, with seven new faces taking centre-stage.
It is the year 1964, and Riverdale, a picturesque town nestled in the hills of North India, bears the traces of English influences in its essence. Inhabitants of this town carry the heritage of English ancestry in their veins, yet their hearts resonate with India as their true home. The beating heart of this town is the community garden known as Green Park. It is the very spot where Archibald ‘Archie’ Andrews (Agastya Nanda), Ethel Muggs (Aditi Saigal aka Dot.), Betty Cooper (Khushi Kapoor), Jughead Jones (Mihir Ahuja), Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan), Reggie Mantle (Vedang Raina), and Dilton Doiley (Yuvraj Menda) took their initial steps as infants, following their birth in 1947. The resilience of their friendship and the future of the town are put to the test when a suggestion is put forth to construct a hotel instead of the park. Amidst the challenges, they navigate matters of the heart on the threshold of adulthood.
Co-written with her collaborators Ayesha Devitre Dhillon and Reema Kagti, Zoya incorporates multiple themes and concerns, and let me tell you, it’s a delicate path to navigate. Yet, it’s an ingenious move to employ cinema in the form of a musical to convey a message to a new generation that appears to be lost in the pursuit of validation through meaningless reels and endless scrolling on Instagram. The fear of maturing and taking on adult responsibilities, the shared social responsibility, the need for free press and critique, conflicts between humanity and nature, and the imperative need to engage in politics seamlessly align within the narrative, without any element standing out conspicuously. Incorporating all these elements, the film takes a sweeping journey down memory lane to a time when our lives were brimming with innocence and idealism. It harks back to an era where our eyes sparkled with aspirations and ambition. The melodies crafted by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Ankur Tewari and The Islanders perfectly capture the essence of The Archies. From the attire to the production design overseen by Suzanne Caplan Merwanji, to the cinematography skillfully executed by Nikos Anaritsakis, you’ll find yourself irresistibly pulled into this world as it unfolds in front of you. One aspect that the film might be criticized for is its length, an aspect where editor Nitin Baid could have exercised more consideration.
Setting that aside, there isn’t a single false note that can be pinpointed in the performances delivered by the film’s young cast. Agastya effortlessly embodies Archie, a character that occasionally flirts, infusing idealism with his charm. Dot., as Ethel, is delightfully ambitious, and her character resonated with me the most. Vedang effectively portrays the neighborhood heartthrob Reggie, while Mihir, as Archie’s bro-dude Jughead, is hilariously on point. Suhana is aptly yet unconventionally cast as Veronica, a daddy’s princess with a heart. Khushi embodies the perfect girl-next-door who loves to bake. However, my favorite performance has to be Yuvraj as Dilton, the genius whose moment of truth will leave you deeply moved.
The Archies arrives on Netflix as an early Christmas gift, one that will leave you with a heartwarming feeling. It’s a film that you’d cherish revisiting with your friends on lazy Sunday afternoons.